Any membership a person is registered to guarantees benefits the membership allows. But what if you’re born into membership?
I am a Cree-Métis from East Prairie Métis Settlement. My family, or specifically my great-grandfather and great-grandmother on my grandfather’s side, were once part of the first settlers in East Prairie. My great-great- grandfather on my grandmother’s side was Peter Tompkins Sr., one of the founding members of the Métis Federation [now referred to as the Metis Settlements General Council]. This is history I wouldn’t wish to dispose of, but now a choice to keep my name in the membership is up for me to decide depending on the choices our leadership makes.
I lived on the Settlement since I was a child, and in my teens moved back and forth from my grandmother’s place in the city and my mother’s home in East Prairie. When I turned 18 I applied for membership in the community, it was granted.
That was only the start. Had I known how difficult it would be to get approval from the East Prairie council for other benefits as written in the Settlement Act, I may have made a different choice.
Now I am 38 years old. I’ve had 20 years experience dealing with EPMS, and each time I had a issue or request council finds a way to say no when the Act would say yes. I’m not about to divulge in the past 20 years of inconsistency with council and their members, but I will share information about my experiences in the last three years.
In 2017, my mother moved away from East Prairie for employment. She couldn’t get work on the Settlement. I moved with her, to help with the three kids she is currently guardian of. At this time, due to earlier issues in getting approval for a leave of absence [LOA], I decided not to bother trying to get one.
In 2019, my grandfather passed away. He listed me as trustee for the land and house. I know his reasoning; he wanted the land to stay in the Andrews name as it always was.
I filed the proper paperwork with MSGC in Edmonton needed as a trustee, other than a Dower rights my grandmother needed to sign. In October 2019, I received a Certified Copy of Métis Title [as trustee] from the Alberta Government Indigenous Relations Métis Settlements Land Registry. The provisions of this title granted me; 1] the provisions of the Métis Settlements General Council Land Policy; 2] the interests listed on the document, and lastly; 3] those interests which may be recorded or registered hereafter. Sounds fair enough.
Since I was still helping my mom with the three kids while she was employed in the city, I couldn’t immediately move back. So I allowed an uncle to stay there while I was away.
At first, the Settlement denied water delivery for my uncle, stating I needed a lease before they can deliver. Sure, that shouldn’t be too hard. Then I’m told I need a LOA before I can get a lease. I did not want to, due to my past history in trying to get a LOA, but my uncle needed water. So I applied for both at the same time. The lease was approved but – unsurprisingly – my LOA was not. Reason being was I wrote on my LOA application that I was unsure if I would be returning to my mother’s house or my grandfather’s house, which I was now trustee. Apparently, my mother’s house or my grandfather’s were not considered “appropri- ate residency”.
So I tried again, this time only listing my grandfather’s land and house as my point of return. This time my LOA was, instead of being unconsidered, being reviewed again once “council receives more information”.
This application was sent in July 15, 2020 and the notification that council sent back was dated July 23. I received the letter in the mail Aug. 6, the day I e-mailed council and the administrator and asked the questions as follows:
1. Will I have to apply yet again for another LOA to be considered?
2. How long will it take for council to have “more information” regarding land location to make a decision?
3. Is there anything I can send along to expedite this?
I keep getting the same reason being 85, unless there is more not included in the letter, 85 just says, “A Settlement council can give a Settlement member an authorized leave of absence from the Settlement area for any additional reason that appears reasonable to the council and impose terms and conditions on the leave.”
So, am I to believe the council just does not want to give me a LOA?
As I have also used my mother’s land location and it was refused for the same reason, I would also like to ask why my LOA would be considered “unreasonable” for council to refuse it.
If I can have some clarity on the issue that would be greatly appreciated, if the case is that this council will absolutely not give me a LOA, my only option would be to move back. If that is the case, knowing about it sooner than later would be easier.
I’ve also become aware that I would be able to get a letter from my current physician if it is necessary. I’ve had no response.
Let me clear it up a bit. My mother had phoned on my behalf. Currently I am dealing with personal issues that prevent me from stating my mind fully to others who are not immediate family. I’m working on this and sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it is not. My mother was led in circles “this person said that” ask that person “no, that person said this”. Or, it would be general gaslighting. “I never said that!”
I have a video recording of my mom talking to a council member doing exactly this. Not only that, but this council member named another member in the call and compared her issues to ours. Completely ignoring FOIP.
Sept. 22, I decided to send another e-mail. I asked if council had received more information about my LOA and reminded them that as trustee of my grandfather’s land I should be informed of any changes made to the title before the changes are made.
A response! Finally! What did it say?
“I guess you haven’t heard yet, the house and land is under your grandma . . . .legally it went to her.”
So essentially, my community failed to communicate with me, as trustee, about land they are making decisions over.
Moreover, this information turned out to be untrue.
I don’t want to fight family over my grandfather’s last wishes, but if I am forced to, apparently by false information from a council memebr, I will. My grandmother never lived in East Prairie for as long as I remember. I’m told she moved in the late 1970s to Edmonton before I was born. As far as I know, my grandmother has no intent on moving back or living in East Prairie. Many of us asked and she replies the same to everyone, she was granted a LOA for health reasons which essentially confirms she cannnot return due to her current health issues. She and my grandfather also filed taxes separately and had different addresses for decades. All of this information would relinquish the Dower rights.
Recently, the council, my council, decided to try and place conditions on to the LOA applications. One such condition was that after 12 months of unapproved LOA, council would then have the right to remove said member from the membership. Essentially, they want to remove something a person is born into, for their own benefit. This absolutely does nothing to benefit the community as a whole. How can removing members in any sort be beneficial? By a very small margin this bylaw failed to pass.
If anything, the choices council makes are more detrimental to everyone. Not only our community of East Prairie, but the whole MSGC community as a whole.
The issues I’ve mentioned are only my own. If I added in my two sisters and my mother’s issues this would go on for pages.
Why is council allowed to make decisions that go against the act and the law? Many councillors are elected based on how large their family is within the community. It is essentially a high school president election. There should be more to it than votes. A council member, in my own personal opinion, should be subjected to three more items before being placed on a ballot.
First, council should be required to give all information needed as employees to the settlement are. This includes a criminal record check. Or more precisely, a clean criminal record check. Why would one who would go against the law be allowed to make choices that affect people’s lives?
Second, an on-line ethics test. Same reasoning as the criminal record. If you are unethical, why are you making choices?
The third would be a test on the Settlement Act. If you don’t know how to make an informed decision based on the Act, why are you making decisions based therein?
In my opinion we have two options: we leave the membership or council makes changes to how they govern themselves and their members. If these changes are never made, the continuation of council creating barriers rather than clearing them will always continue.
If it continues to be detrimental to membership, what is the point of keeping it?
Lawrence Joseph Andrews,
East Prairie Métis Settlement member